Analysis: EIGHT games that sealed Hartlepool United's Football League fate

Nathan Thomas trudges off after the hammering at Broadhall Way
Nathan Thomas trudges off after the hammering at Broadhall Way

The day after the night that was.

Drink was taken, sorrows drowned, but the sad reality everyone is waking up to this morning is that Hartlepool no longer has a Football League club.

Craig Hignett, Gary Coxall, Dave Jones, the playing staff, JPNG - whoever is to blame, relegation to the National League for the first time in Hartlepool's proud history beckons, and 96 years of continuous league football is over.

What happens next for Pools is anyone's guess, but what has gone before is in no doubt.

So, where did it all go wrong for Pools?

Here we take a look at the key games in the campaign that turned a seemingly normal season into the one from hell for Poolies.

Saturday, September 3 - Stevenage 6 Hartlepool 1

An abject showing saw Pools hit for six down south.

Strangely this result sparked them into life, though.

In the month that followed they produced positive showings at league leaders Plymouth, at home to Luton, as well as wins at Grimsby and Yeovil.

At this point no one could have seen what was to come. But the manner of defeat sewed the seeds of doubt in Poolies' minds.

A frailty and ability to crumble was evident. It was to rear its ugly head again later in the season at Port Vale in the FA Cup and in the home capitulation against Cambridge, where they contrived to produce one of the worst 45 minutes of football I've seen from any side in my time covering football.

Saturday, March 11 - Notts County 2 Hartlepool 1

Fourth-bottom Pools travelled to third-bottom County looking to extend the gap at the bottom to nine points, instead by the end of the day it was six as Jones' men became the target for Leyton Orient and Newport in the bottom two.

Ask any player or manager who has been involved in relegation tussles and they will tell you the same thing, time and time again - beat the teams around you. Former Newcastle United striker Shola Ameobi netted to ensure the Magpies got their season up and running with all three points.

Even at this stage, less than two months ago, Pools were nine ahead of Newport, the team who beat them in the battle against the drop to the Conference.

Saturday April 8 - Morecambe 1 Hartlepool 1

As far as bankers go, this was one Pools had to put in the bag.

On a run of three defeats, having won three of their four previous to that Pools needed a lift.

And what better than a side on a run of seven consecutive losses turning up at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

Well, despite taking the lead courtesy of Padraig Amond a second half equaliser meant the shares were spoiled.

At this point, with five to go, the gap to the dropzone was three points.

Friday, April 14 - Hartlepool 1 Carlisle 1

Carlisle came to the Vic having won just one of their last nine.

And while a Rhys Oates equaliser ensured Pools kept their heads above water at the bottom it never felt like the result was ever going to be enough.

With games running out Pools needed wins. A point gained yes, but another nail in the coffin, too.

Monday, April 17 - Leyton Orient 2 Hartlepool 1

Three days after the Carlisle disappointment on 'Bad Friday' Pools showed no signs of resurrection on Easter Monday.

With a host of players on strike, seven kids in the starting line-up and relegation all but confirmed Orient still had enough to see of Jones & Co at Brisbane Road.

Probably the saddest episode of the whole campaign. From this point on, many felt the writing was well and truly on the wall.

Saturday, April 22 - Hartlepool 0 Barnet 2

The straw that broke the camel's back.

This result turned out to be a positive in the end, with Jones more than deservedly getting the boot from Pools, but with time running out yet more points went begging.

The catalyst for change but at least a game too late.

To compound this result, the Bees had no manager, were on a shocking run of form and were having their training sessions taken by a former British champion artistic gymnast - Rossi Eames.

Cheltenham Town 1 Hartlepool 0

With the Jones monkey off their back, Pools were cut loose under the guidance the guidance of Matthew Bates.

Well, cut loose is not really the right turn of phrase.

A more positive show resulted in almost snatching a draw late on, but due to Newport's defeat this was their chance to get out of the dreaded bottom two.

Too many chances missed, too many gilt-edged opportunities passed up.

Saturday, May 6 - Hartlepool 2 Doncaster 1

The end.

A win was needed. A win was achieved with character, fight, bottle, togetherness and passion.

As we all know, it wasn't enough. Newport's win elsewhere meant the emotional, dramatic scenes at the Vic were in vain. Hopefully this is a case of down but not out for Pools.